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- DTN Headline News
Senate GOP Farm Bill Unveiled
By Jerry Hagstrom
Tuesday, June 11, 2024 4:11PM CDT

WASHINGTON (DTN) -- Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., the ranking member on the Senate Agriculture Committee, on Tuesday released a farm bill framework that is similar to the GOP-written farm bill that the House Agriculture Committee passed, but with fewer policy or funding details.

At a news briefing, Boozman said the Senate Republican committee staff has a text, but it will not be released. An aide said the committee does not have a final score from the Congressional Budget Office, but that savings would be found within the $1.5 trillion bill to pay for changes.

When asked how much the bill would cost, Boozman did not provide details, but said, "We are using the Sen. Stabenow approach." When Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., released her farm bill, she said it would not cost more than current budget authority plus $5 billion over 10 years that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said could be found and added to the bill.

At the news media briefing and in a statement, Boozman emphasized that more money is needed for the farm safety net and that the GOP bill would provide it.

In a statement, Boozman said, "From the onset of this process, we have sought to draft a farm bill that reflects the needs of stakeholders. The world has changed dramatically since the 2018 bill became law, and the unprecedented challenges and economic uncertainty that farmers face now are only projected to get worse in the coming years."

"This is why producers have been calling on senators to put more farm in the farm bill," Boozman said.

"Our framework released today meets that call by modernizing the farm safety net, facilitating the expansion of access to overseas markets, fostering breakthroughs in agricultural research and growing the rural communities our farmers, ranchers and foresters call home -- all while making a historic investment in conservation and protecting nutrition programs that help Americans in need."

Boozman thanked Stabenow for the framework she released, and also thanked House Agriculture Committee Chairman Rep. Glenn "GT" Thompson, R-Pa., who wrote the bill that his committee passed with four Democrats joining all Republicans in voting for it.

Boozman said he has been "proud to partner" with Stabenow on other issues and looks forward to working with her on "a bipartisan farm bill that meets the needs of farmers, ranchers, foresters, rural communities and consumers nationwide."

Now that he has released the Senate GOP framework, Boozman said he and other committee members "have to sit around the table like this and be serious about getting the farm bill done or agree to disagree and start working on an extension" of the 2018 farm bill. The 2018 bill expired on Sept. 30, 2023, but has already been extended through Sept. 30, 2024.

In response to questions, Boozman said he does not believe it would be necessary to consider an extension of the 2018 farm bill until after the November presidential election, when it might also be possible to write a new farm bill.

Using a series of slides (https://www.hagstromreport.com/…), Boozman said the farm bill safety net needs to be improved because farm commodity prices are falling while input costs have risen and remain high.

Another slide showed that farm incomes have declined dramatically, although Biden administration officials have pointed out that the decline in income has been from a very high level.

Yet another slide pointed out that since 2018, spending under the nutrition title has risen 85% and under the conservation title 28%, while the increase for commodity and related programs has been only 12%.

The Senate Republican bill would raise the reference prices that trigger subsidy payments for crop farmers by an average of 15% and "maintains and enhances" risk management by including a crop insurance bill written by Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., the ranking member on the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee.

Boozman also said the bill would require that all future rewrites of the Thrifty Food Plan, used to set benefits for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), be budget neutral.

The Biden administration used authority under the 2018 farm bill to update the Thrifty Food Plan as reflected by recent nutrition research on a healthy diet and to increase SNAP benefits beyond the normal inflationary increases already in the law. The Senate bill would also tighten up SNAP overpayments, which a slide showed are now at $91 billion per year, almost as much as the cost of the crop insurance program and more than commodity and conservation programs.

Like the House bill, the Senate bill would move the conservation budget authority -- estimated at between $14 billion and $20 billion -- in the Inflation Reduction Act into the farm bill, while removing the guardrails that require Inflation Reduction Act money be spent on climate-related conservation programs.

The Senate bill does not officially "suspend" Title V of the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act like the House bill does. Boozman repeatedly declined to say that the Senate bill would "suspend" Title V authority, saying that the bill would "reign in" spending "through" Title V and increase transparency in the use of the CCC, USDA's $30 billion line of credit at the Treasury which the agriculture secretary can use to address almost any farm problem.

Former President Donald Trump and his agriculture secretary, Sonny Perdue, used the CCC to provide payments to farmers in reaction to reduced agricultural product sales to China after Trump put tariffs on Chinese products.

President Joe Biden and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack have used that authority to establish the Partnerships for Climate Smart Commodities, which Republicans have criticized.

Boozman said the Biden administration had used the CCC to provide money to "entities that don't have anything to do with farming."

Asked whether President Trump in a second term might need the authority to provide payments to farmers if he imposes steeper tariffs on Chinese products, an aide said that if farm prices or incomes fall due to decreased exports, the higher reference prices should generate payments.

Like the House GOP bill, the Senate bill contains a provision to stop states from passing measures like California's Prop 12, which requires all pork sold in the state to come from animals raised under certain conditions. The Senate bill would cover all products that a federally inspected, an aide said.

The House and Senate GOP bills differ on budgetary considerations and on base acres.

The House GOP bill would use $27 billion in savings from making the Thrifty Food Plan budget neutral and avoiding future noninflationary increases in SNAP benefits to fund other nutrition program increases, trade promotion programs and specialty crop programs. It would also use the savings from suspending Title V of the CCC Charter Act to pay for increases in reference prices, although there is a disagreement between the House Agriculture Committee Republicans and the Congressional Budget Office over how much in savings that provision would generate.

CBO says it would save $8 billion over 10 years, while the House Ag Committee Republicans say it should save $53 billion, the amount they want to increase the reference prices.

Boozman declined to say how much the increase in reference prices would cost. The Senate bill is silent about how money would be shifted among titles.

The Senate GOP bill would also allow an increase in base acres that are used to calculate farm subsidies for each farm. The House farm bill has a formula for the recalculation, while the Senate bill would order USDA to "capture" acreage that has been lost to various non-farm purposes and use that acreage to increase base for farmers who have little or no base, an aide said.

The bill includes many other provisions, which may be found in the documents that Boozman released.

EARLY REACTIONS TO SENATE GOP FARM BILL FRAMEWORK

A few lawmakers and some farm groups have issued responses to the farm bill framework released on Tuesday by Sen. Boozman.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Rep. Glenn "GT" Thompson, R-Pa., said, "Ranking Member Boozman and Senate Agriculture Republicans have put forward a slate of thoughtful proposals that must be addressed in the next farm bill."

"Their framework elevates the urgent needs voiced by diverse stakeholders across the country, and articulates common-sense solutions in response, an approach the House Committee on Agriculture took in developing and advancing the bipartisan Farm, Food, and National Security Act of 2024.

"House Republicans are eager to build on this momentum and enact a comprehensive farm bill that meets the needs across the agricultural value chain."

Rep. David Scott, D-Ga., the ranking member on the House Agriculture Committee, said, "By copying the approach taken by House Agriculture Republicans, the Senate Agriculture Republican minority has chosen to ignore Democratic warnings by putting forth policies, particularly on nutrition, that Democrats cannot and will not accept."

"The worst-kept secret in the agriculture community is that a farm bill with the Republican proposal on the Thrifty Food Plan will never become law.

"Who will acknowledge this reality first, House or Senate Republicans? Or will they continue to place their ideological obsession with making massive cuts to SNAP over the real need of our farmers to enact a farm bill this year?"

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., the ranking member on the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, said, "I appreciate Sen. Boozman putting forward this framework, which is all about keeping the farm in the farm bill and includes a wide range of priorities we've been advancing to invest in the continued success of our producers."

Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., said, "Nebraskans want more 'farm' in the farm bill, and that's what this framework delivers."

"By strengthening risk management tools like crop insurance, increasing our investment in locally led conservation programs, doubling funding for trade promotion programs, investing in research, and increasing funding for critical animal health programs, this vision provides the tools necessary for American agriculture to thrive," Fischer said.

"It also includes a number of my bills that make precision ag technology more affordable and increase connectivity in the field, tools producers use to conserve resources and cut costs. My Democratic colleagues should recognize the value of this modernization effort and work with Republicans to create a farm bill that puts producers first."

Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., said, "For years now, we have been fighting to ensure our Kansas farmers and ranchers' voices are heard at the highest levels of government; I believe this framework reflects those efforts and Kansans' priorities."

"Unlike the Democrats' bill, we do not force farmers to choose between crop insurance and Title One funding while providing farmers with increased coverage levels for crop insurance," Marshall said.

"We also meaningfully increase the reference prices for ARC (Agriculture Risk Coverage) and PLC (Price Loss Coverage) to ensure those programs actually help full-time farmers.

"We remove Biden's climate guardrails on conservation funding to allow the real conservationists, our farmers and ranchers, to make decisions that best fit their farm.

"This proposal also empowers farming communities by bolstering rural broadband funding and improving access to rural health care and childcare. This framework promotes trade access and doubles agricultural research funding, a huge success for Kansas State and our state's research universities like Fort Hays, Wichita State, and our Kansas community colleges.

"We enhance the integrity and oversight of the nutrition title to ensure these dollars are allocated to the communities who need it most, with zero cuts to SNAP benefits," Marshall said.

"I am truly impressed by how each title of this farm bill framework reflects our deep commitment to Kansas farmers and outlines viable pathways to fund those commitments responsibly."

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said, "Farm Bureau appreciates Sen. Boozman's release of an outline for a new, modernized farm bill that increases investments in the farm safety net and advances voluntary conservation efforts."

"His plan, combined with Sen. Stabenow's previously released outline, brings into better focus each party's vision for this important legislation.

"This is encouraging progress in the Senate, but there is much work to be done. There are stark differences between the two outlines and we urge Chairwoman Stabenow and ranking member Boozman to find common ground on the important issues that farmers and ranchers face.

"We urge the Senate Agriculture Committee to use these outlines to draft a bipartisan farm bill that updates the farm safety net and makes crop insurance more accessible, and to schedule a committee markup soon," Duvall said. "The farm bill benefits every family in America. They're relying on Congress to get the job done."

Farm Credit Council President and CEO Todd Van Hoose applauded both Boozman and Stabenow for having released policy proposals and said, "we hope this momentum continues. Economic conditions in agriculture are tightening, and America's farmers and ranchers need the certainty of a full, five-year farm bill."

National Milk Producers Federation President and CEO Gregg Doud said that dairy farmers and their cooperatives "commend" Boozman "for issuing a strong farm bill framework that marks another important step toward enacting a bipartisan farm bill into law this year."

"Ranking member Boozman's framework includes numerous dairy priorities, such as reauthorizing and updating the vital Dairy Margin Coverage safety net and advancing NMPF-led bipartisan bills to spur approval of innovative feed ingredients, protect the use of common food names, and boost consumption of nutritious milk among our nation's youth," Doud said.

USA Rice commended Boozman "for rolling out a 2024 farm bill proposal that upholds his commitment to put 'more farm in the farm bill.'"

"It is imperative Congress pass a bipartisan, bicameral farm bill this year that prioritizes improvements to the farm safety net, including a meaningful increase in the PLC reference price for rice, as we face a looming drop in prices this fall and a myriad of market unknowns," USA Rice said.

CropLife America President and CEO Alexandra Dunn said, "We recognize the importance of this step in the farm bill process following the House Agriculture Committee's passage of language last month."

"We were pleased that the framework addressed several of our priorities, including reauthorization of the Endangered Species Act Interagency Working Group, validating EPA's registration authority by reaffirming the primacy of federal labels, support for an increased role for USDA's Office of Pest Management Policies in the pesticide registration process, and improving the regulation of biostimulants."

National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) President Mark Eisele, a Wyoming rancher, said, "This Senate farm bill framework understands the full threat of a foreign animal disease outbreak on U.S. soil and acknowledges that cattle farmers and ranchers carry out vital work, through voluntary conservation programs, to preserve our nation's natural resources."

"NCBA welcomes this positive step forward and urges the Senate to follow the ranking member's lead, as the policy ideas in this framework have already received bipartisan support in the House."

National Council of Farmer Cooperatives President Chuck Conner said Boozman's "proposal would make significant investments to strengthen farmers and ranchers and bolster rural communities. Having the Senate committee taking up a farm bill is the next logical step in the process of passing a farm bill this year," Conner said.

"With both the majority and minority leaders of the committee having now released frameworks, we hope that they will come together soon to work on a farm bill that can gain strong bipartisan support," Conner said.

National Association of Wheat Growers President Keeff Felty commended Boozman for releasing a proposal "which protects crop insurance and incorporates policies we advocated for."

"This is a step in the right direction and will hopefully lead to Senate action soon." Felty said.

For more details on the Senate GOP farm bill framework, visit www.agriculture.senate.gov/newsroom/rep/press/release/boozman-unveils-senate-ag-republicans-framework-answering-call-to-put-more-farm-in-the-farm-bill.

Jerry Hagstrom can be reached at jhagstrom@nationaljournal.com

Follow him on social platform X @hagstromreport


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